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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ruth Reichl Goes Back Undercover!

Because Ruth Reichl is a cultural treasure and my own personal culinary idol, and because this video is hilarious. And also because I'd really like to write 15 pages today, so I don't have time for a real blog post. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's On Your Desk?

Full disclosure: A lamp, external hard drive, back issues of RWR, Domino, and Gourmet, Agnes and the Hit Man by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, extra cover flats for Can't Stand the Heat, a box of Kleenex, a cut-crystal candy jar filled with paper clips, sheet music for choir pieces we sang three Sundays ago, On the Line by Eric Ripert, subscription renewal notice for Food & Wine magazine, a granola bar, To Romance a Charming Rogue by Nicole Jordan, three dirty glasses, a printed out copy of some ancient, unknown draft of Can't Stand the Heat, a pair of plyers, and two boxes of Christmas cards I never sent out.
Clearly, I'm in dire need of a bit of spring cleaning. Not yet; I've got a book to finish first. Come June 2nd, though--watch out, dust bunnies!

So what's on your desk?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back to Work

The 2009 Romantic Times convention was a ton of fun, even taking into account the insanely inadequate hotel--it was like being at college again, in a dorm that was inconveniently located way far away from all my classes and the dining hall. Despite the difficulties of traipsing half a mile in killer heels and sweaty weather, I had a good time making new friends and catching up with old ones. All the parties I made it to were fabulous; I now want to start a local bunco chapter and buy a pair of gladiator sandals.

I came home Sunday to gorgeous Ohio weather--spring had finally sprung! All the trees exploded into bloom while I was gone, and Stinger and I spent the afternoon on the deck drinking my new favorite thing, Wyder's Dry Peach Cider. It tastes exactly like you want peach cider to taste, and was a perfect way to usher in the sunshine. I'm especially glad we took the time to enjoy it, because today Ohio is back to its chilly ways. Although, since I'm on a strict writing schedule for the next month, I have to say that today's weather really suits my goals. I love to be cuddled up in my office with my characters when it's rainy and gray outside. Right now I've got my windows open so I can hear the constant patter of the drops on my roof. I'm in the perfect frame of mind to rock out ten pages!

What's your favorite writing weather?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What To Pack - And I Don't Mean Clothes

I'm heading off to RT for the first time (yes, I'm a virgin, insert inappropriate joke here). My wardrobe is going to consist mainly of khakis, cotton tops, sundresses, and bathing suits. I'm not planning to attend any costume balls (although I very much look forward to seeing those who do) so that makes life easy.

What's not so easy is choosing which of the many books on my currently-reading pile to bring. I've gotten into a bad habit of starting more than one book at a time, which means it feels like I never finish anything. Check out my GoodReads box at the bottom of the page. According to that, I'm reading like nine things right now! And when I look at it? There aren't really any I'm willing to take off the list. So what do I bring to RT? Especially knowing I'll be picking up books there!

Beyond Heaving Bosoms is on my Kindle (shut up, I preordered it before #amazonfail) so I think that's definitely coming. I've got a couple of manuscripts from friends to read, also on Kindle, and the newest Suzanne Brockmann. What else? I'm thinking Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl, maybe Flat Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy. And my cooking magazines: Gourmet, Saveur, Food & Wine, and Cook's Illustrated. That should cover me on my travels, right?

I should mention I have a pathological fear of being caught in some horrible travel snafu, like being stuck on a runway for three hours, and not having enough to read. I'd much rather overpack. What about you? Do you go for the mindless entertainment of People magazine and Us Weekly? The latest novel you've been meaning to try or the periodical you try to get through every quarter? Or do you like to sleep or listen to music. Share your travel strategies.

Monday, April 20, 2009

RT 2009 - The Parties

My nails are candy pink, my hair is freshly highlighted, and by this time tomorrow, my skin will be glowing with a healthy faux tan. I must be on my way to the Romantic Times Convention in Orlando! Here's a look at the two parties I'm most excited about:
The Game that's sweeping the nation! A toss of the dice may bring you luck as you roll for prizes and enjoy refreshments, fun, and friends! 
Prizes for High Bunco, Bunco Barbie, Bunco Bar Fly, Bunco Nazi... You get the drift, what happens at Bunco stays at Bunco. Come join us for the parlor game that has a long and "dicey" history...

Hosted by: Maria Geraci
Thursday, April 23, 2009
2:30 PM - 3:30 PM


Everybody who's anybody is going to be at Deidre Knight's GODS OF MIDNIGHT PARTY. When is it taking place? At midnight of course! Duh! So if you've made plans to jet down to Orlando in April, make sure to put Deidre Knight's party on your must-do itinerary for Thursday night! I've heard there will be games, party favors, and a special appearance by some extremely hot cover models. So lace on your sandals and tie on your togas and head for the Citrus Ballrooms at midnight on Thursday, April 23rd!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Current Obsessions

Music: The Bravery, a neo-punk band that started in New York and has recently plunged into the mainstream with hits like Believe and Unconditional. A little punky, a little poppy, a whole lot of fun.

TV: No surprise to anyone who follows me on Twitter, but I'm obsessed right now with America's Next Top Model. I admit, I used to mock my sister for watching it, but it's strangely compelling and undeniably addictive. In the last few weeks, I've watched multiple cycles on iTunes; it's the best show I've ever found to watch while working out!

Food: I recently started making smoothies again. Greek yogurt (I prefer Fage 2% or 0%), frozen berries or peaches or a combo, milk or soymilk, a dash of strawberry mint or mixed mint syrup from June Taylor Jams, and you've got the world's most perfect breakfast!

Books: Contemporary romance. It's strange, but since I started writing it, I've stopped reading it. Maybe out of fear of losing my own voice? I don't know but I've decided it was a dumb move. Thanks to the Save the Contemporary campaign, I know exactly what's hot and happening in the subgenre right now. Just finished Hot Property by Carly Phillips. Next up: Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl.

Interwebs: I guess I have to say Twitter. It's such a fun way to interact with people! Interesting discussions and links are posted daily; I feel like it keeps me current with what's happening in publishing, with my friends, and in the food world. Here's hoping Oprah jumping on the bandwagon doesn't crash the system!

What are your obsessions? Tempt me and my addictive personality...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Romantic Times!

Out of the blue, so fast I hardly know what's happening, I'm going to the Romantic Times BookLover's Convention! It's next week, I hadn't planned to, but there's just so much cool stuff going on that I couldn't resist. I RSVP'd to some parties, booked some tickets, begged a room, and burned a hole in my credit card shopping online. I'm as giddy as a kid going to Disney World! Which is appropriate, since RT is in Orlando this year. Yes, in classic Louisa fashion, I'm heading for sunny Florida just when the weather in Ohio turns gorgeous and springy. Why can't RT be in January? But I know you don't all want to hear about the weather. You want to know what I bought!

My favorite is probably this Grecian goddess-inspired dress from J.Crew. I got it in bright green! It will be perfect for Deidre Knight's fabulous Gods of Midnight party at midnight on Thursday, which I'm assured will be full of exciting surprises. Let's hope the dress fits! Also from J.Crew (what can I say, I needed casual cotton pants and these dresses jumped into my virtual shopping cart!) is this cute little silvery gray silk chiffon number that could dress up or down, depending on accessories and shoes.

And speaking of shoes, my partners in crime Kristen Painter and Melissa Francis convinced me I needed these. They're a little outside my comfort zone but I'm excited to try them. Must remember to schedule pedicure for early next week...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Artichoke, Shallot, and Potato Ragout

Yet another stellar offering from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, the Artichoke, Shallot, and Potato Ragout (hereafter referred to as ASPG or simply the ragout) I made last night was a big hit. Straightforward and easy, although slightly tedious to prepare unless you particularly enjoy scrubbing potatoes and chopping vegetables. I don't, so I had to force myself to do it, but I'm so glad I did! Not only did we get a wonderful dinner out of it, but I used the leftovers creatively this morning for a yummy savory bread pudding.

Here's my mise en place:
I used frozen artichoke hearts rather than the baby artichokes the recipe called for; my local supermarket isn't so great about stocking "exotic" items. The first step (after all the boring chopping, which is never included in estimates of how long the dish will take to prepare, grr) was to warm the butter with the slivered garlic and aromatics. Yes, I cheated and used a pre-made bouquet garni that came in a jar from Williams Sonoma, via my Christmas stocking from my mother-in-law.Once I started adding the chopped vegetables (frozen artichokes which I'd perhaps over-thawed in the microwave, quartered fingerling potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, and peeled shallots) it became abundantly clear that I had drastically overestimated the capacity of my Le Creuset braiser and needed to swap it out for the deeper dutch oven. I made the switch, losing only a few pieces of fingerling and an artichoke or two, and let it go for a few minutes. The vegetables were supposed to get some nice color, but they were so packed in there they were steaming more than sizzling. Eventually I gave up and moved on to the next step, tossing with flour for thickener, adding the liquid and simmering until everything was good and tender.
The recipe calls for white wine; I like to use dry vermouth for its bright, herbal flavor. Thank you, Julia Child! And thanks to Cook's Illustrated for taste testing commercial brands of canned vegetable stock. Swanson's got the highest marks for flavor, so that's what's in my pantry.

The end result was simple and delicious. A surprisingly flavorful broth with large (a little too large, for my taste--next time I'd dice more conservatively) chunks of meltingly soft root vegetables. The whole shallots, especially, were like candy, sweet and addictive. The chopped parsley and rosemary sprinkled over the top added more than just a bit of pretty greenery; the clean sharpness of the fresh herbs contrasted nicely with the earthy vegetables. I served it with sourdough bread to soak up the juices. Stinger had two bowls!
And then this morning, I tossed some of the drained leftovers with cubed whole grain bread and a couple of eggs beaten with milk. Baked it in a buttered pan at 350 for half an hour, and voila! Savory breakfast bread pudding. Yum!And there's still some ASPG leftover. Deborah says the recipe makes four servings! I'm not sure what sort of bottomless pit Deb is cooking for, but Stinger and I will be enjoying this ragout, in various incarnations, for days.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Calling All Artists!

Who knows how to work with digital art to create a dynamic banner ad? Not I. But I'm betting someone I know does. Come forward, whoever has the time and energy and would like to be sent a homemade dessert of some kind in gratitude! I need your creativity. And if you'd prefer to be paid in cash money rather than rhubarb pie, I can work with that, too.

Feel free to spread the word if you have friends who do this kind of work. Thanks!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Like many people who went to bed early last night, I woke up this morning to a storm of controversy regarding Amazon's new filtering policy that deranked hundreds of queer theory, feminist books, and classics like Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence because of their "adult" themes. Wtf? Amazon is now saying it's just a glitch in the system, but it's hard to comprehend a glitch that would strip the sales ranking from a children's book to help explain two mommies while leaving porn star Ron Jeremy's filthy memoir alone. I feel sick to my stomach thinking of the amount of money I've spent at Amazon in the last week since getting my Kindle, not to mention the years before that. Let's hope they do in fact fix this "glitch" and issue a huge, heartfelt apology to those authors whose sales have undoubtedly been affected as well as to Amazon consumers whose searches and interests have essentially been censored. If you want to know more about this issue, check out the #amazonfail thread on Twitter, or the great posts on Jezebel and AfterEllen.

My personal guarantee is that no matter where you fall on the issue of gay rights you will be shocked at the list of deranked books, especially as compared to the list of books deemed not too shocking for Amazon's consumers. EPIC FAIL, Amazon.

ETA: Correspondence between a friend of mine and Amazon. Friend's letters were so good, I wanted to highlight them here.

Letter #1:
have never felt more betrayed by a company I used to love than I do
now. The idea that Amazon would declare "adult" books like The Diving
Bell and the Buttefly, Unfriendly Fire, and Swish by Joel Derfner (a
book that I am personally thanked in), and consequently strip them of
their rankings and/or their ability to be searched for, is disgusting
and inexplicable to me. I have a good friend who's publishing a romance
novel from a major publisher in the fall, and it features some explicit
sex scenes; will it suffer the same fate? I'm writing this letter as a
personal individual, but I have worked in the publishing industry for
many years. Among many other books, I've edited two extremely
successful series from a major NYT-bestselling author, whose novels
occasionally feature explicit sex scenes. Will those books be shoved
off bestseller lists on Amazon, and hidden from searches? I would
accept (and understand the need for) something like the optional "safe
search" filtering options on Google searches within Amazon's system,
but anything that would give Amazon the power to arbitrarily label
books as "adult" and make them unranked and impossible to search
for--all but wiping them from existence--totally ruins Amazon as a
service to me, and makes Amazon a company that I can have no respect
for. I have been a loyal and happy Amazon customer for years. If this
policy is immediately reversed and a strongly worded apology is issued,
I might be willing to continue using Amazon for a little while, to see
if I'd be up for giving the company a chance to regain my trust.
Otherwise, I will be forced to cancel my account. A few years ago, this
would have been very difficult for me, but today there are many other
online sources that are just as cheap and convenient to use as Amazon
for everything I currently buy here. It is the goodwill Amazon has
built with me that keeps me as its customer more than anything else. It
is amazing to me how quickly and effectively Amazon has destroyed that

goodwill. I am horrified and repulsed.

Amazon response:

Thanks for contacting us. We recently discovered a glitch in our systems and it's being fixed.
Thanks again for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.
Please let us know if this e-mail resolved your question:"

Friend's response to THAT:

Responding to my email and the current news stories about the deranking of
arbitrarily labeled "adult" books--with a high proportion comprising
gay and lesbian books, including classics like Orlando--with the
insufficient statement that Amazon has suffered some kind of magical
"glitch" is totally insufficient to address my concerns over this
company policy. I do not understand how nor accept that this could be a
glitch. Neither does the AP, who put the word in quotes in their
headline about this. Again, if a strongly worded apology is not
forthcoming from Amazon, I will be forced to cancel my account.
Everyone I have discussed this with feels the same. Many of them are
published authors or people who work in publishing--the original core
of Amazon's business! Don't you care about our concerns? Dismissing
them only furthers the inexplicable insult you have delivered here to
many or your customers. One of my friends says she feels like flushing
her Kindle down the toilet. You need to give her a reason not to feel
that way anymore by issuing an appropriate response to what has
happened here.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

Word. Personally, after church and brunch I'll be putting in my five pages like it's any other day. Happy Easter, everybody!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Matt Lauer is Cute, Even in a Cast

Sorry to do a video blog two days in a row, but I wanted to make sure everyone caught this piece the Today Show did on romance. It's a little giggly, and there's a high cheese factor, but it's still interesting how much play this story is getting. And how much Harlequin, in particular, is benefiting. I wonder if it will translate to more sales for them? I've never been convinced that the average reader picks up a book based on the imprint on the spine. Do you think that factors into a decision to purchase? Also, these stories make me wonder if romance imprints like Berkley Sensation, Signet Eclipse, or Grand Central will ever jump on the coverage and release stats on their sales to prove Harlequin's not alone at the recession party.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Because I'm in Love

Or at least, I'm in deep smit...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kindle 2: One For Me and One For You

My new Kindle 2 arrived last night, and this morning it's all charged up and ready to go. I'm going to have a seriously hard time concentrating on anything today other than all the books I want to buy! I'm already adding my stats to the study that found people who own ereaders don't purchase fewer print books--they purchase more books total, because they buy more ebooks AND more print books. I just Whispernetted Dark of Night by Suzanne Brockmann, which I totally already own in hardcover, because I think I'll enjoy reading it more on the smaller, lighter Kindle.

I got the Kindle 2 because, let's face it, I cannot resist hype. Also, I hate it when Stinger owns some cool gadget and I don't. Marriage is an equal partnership, people--he doesn't get to have anything I don't have. I even caused myself incalculable trouble and annoyance by insisting on officially and legally keeping all of my names after we were married (Mary Louisa Edwards White for those of you who are studying up for the soon-to-be-released trivia game) simply because Stinger has four names. It was a huge mistake--they don't even all fit on my driver's license.

The other, less psycho-sounding reason is my brilliant plan to launch my first ever author website (which is almost finished and looking gorgeous!) with a contest to win a brand new Kindle 2! And I wanted to know how the thing worked before giving one away. Won't that be a fun contest, though? You'd all enter, right? And tell your friends?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another Romance Sells! Story

My Google Alerts alerted me to yet another story on the fact that *gasp* romance sells. Even in an economy that is slowly collapsing in on itself like a chocolate souffle. This time it's an Op-Ed piece by LA Times writer Meghan Daum, who proudly professes to be the last person on earth to ever read or enjoy a romance novel, but who apparently feels perfectly qualified to have opinions about their market and appeal. The article, like most articles that have appeared on this topic since U.S. News & World Report's list of "10 Winners in the Recession" focuses exclusively on Harlequin. On the surface, that makes sense--Harlequin is the one who posted the sales bump, after all, while the major mainstream publishing houses all took losses. This article (and most others) lasers in on category romance as if Harlequin doesn't publish anything outside the Presents line, with its millionaire sheiks, Greek tycoons, pregnant mistresses and virgin brides (which, don't get me wrong, I LOVE and always have) and ignores imprints like HQN and Red Dress. Harlequin is about more than the "so easy to poke fun at" category stuff. But that kind of in-depth treatment of the topic would've taken some research.

Another angle I'd love to see a good journalist cover would be the extent to which romance imprints at the major houses are propping up their hardcover and literary siblings. If Harlequin is doing well, it follows that other mass market publishers like Avon and Pocket are, too. Sure, Penguin Group (USA) as a whole may be down--but how are Berkley and NAL doing? My bet would be that Penguin would be in way worse shape without them. My own editor at St. Martin's was very upbeat and cheery when we had lunch last week. The St. Martin's romance department is small compared to some, but it's apparently working well for them. There've been no layoffs, no slowdown of acquisitions--in fact, my editor was recently promoted! So Harlequin isn't the only one enjoying recession sales.

They're just the easiest for snotty journalists to be shocked and dismissive about.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Gourmet's Top Ten, April '09 - Lemon-Glazed Butter Cake

Isn't dessert for dinner just the best thing? Last night we indulged with Lemon-Glazed Butter Cake from this month's Top Ten Editors' Picks from Gourmet magazine, and it was delightful. Easy to make but delivering big flavor.

Here's my mise en place:Minus the milk, because I poured it into my Pyrex measuring cup and then left it on the opposite counter. #Misefail!

Then I started measuring out the dry ingredients. With the flour, no sifting was required (yay!)--I just spooned the flour into the cup and leveled it off. No scooping, since that packs the flour down into the cup and can lead to a heavy cake. As usual, my odd size measuring cups came in super handy. If you don't have a set of these, I highly recommend picking one up. It's ridiculous how much I love them.Once I had dry ingredients and wet ingredients mixed into separate bowls, I creamed the butter and sugar with my stand mixer until pale and fluffy. Since butter is the main flavor in the base cake, I went with my shmancy European import butter, Plugra, which I special order from Zingerman's, because that's the kind of dork I am.After the eggs were beaten in, I alternated adding in the dry and wet ingredients, mixing at low speed until just incorporated.Then I poured the batter into the buttered and floured caked pan, rapped it on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles (I love that part!) and stuck it in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.It came out golden and pretty, although I mangled the top pretty good in the invert-from-pan-and-reinvert-onto-cooling-rack step.The glaze, lemon juice and confectioner's sugar whisked together, was clear and sticky and hid none of my little rips and tears, but even if it had, this isn't one of those desserts you'd want to serve to company. At least, not to any company shallowly obsessed with style over substance. It looks quite plain and simple--which, of course, it is. That's its charm. Perfect for a summer's day picnic! Or a snowy April day when all you can do is wish for the bright warmth of June. (Note: Gourmet recommends waiting until the glazed cake is completely cooled, then dusting over it with powdered sugar, but of course we didn't wait for that last night. Maybe it would've been prettier if we had! But I have to say, we didn't mind the cake's slightly ragged appearance when we were gobbling it down.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Who Was Right--Gordon or Ben?

New York was excellent as always, full of fabulous food and great meetings with my super smart and highly entertaining editor and agent. I had a blast! I must admit, though, I'm glad to be home.

Did anyone else catch Hell's Kitchen last night? After my long drive from the airport, it was about all I could do to pop in a frozen CPK pizza and plop myself down in front of the tv for my weekly dose of Chef Ramsay. But I was so glad I managed it! As always, HK was a riot, full of delusional chef contestants, backbiting, sabotage, tears, and most importantly, a red-faced, white-jacketed Gordon Ramsay in a towering rage. He made his reputation for giving his unvarnished opinions in a loud, sometimes crude, manner--but this season he's truly surpassing himself. One can only assume the varied troubles in his off-camera life are at play. In the past few weeks, he's become so enraged during dinner services that he couldn't wait for the normal elimination portion of the show to throw somebody out. Last night? Total meltdown over pommes fondantes.

The contestants were asked to create their own unique and exciting menus--which turned out to be funny, since the two teams' menus were shockingly similar, from carpaccio appetizers to halibut entrees. But the biggest place each team fell down was with the vegetable garnish, the potato sides. The red team went for a potato dauphinois preparation, where the potatoes are thinly sliced, boiled in cream then layered in a casserole and baked. It sounds fancy, but really it's a very simple dish that Carol somehow managed to screw up, leaving the potatoes crunchy. Ben, my least favorite contestant, crashed and burned with his pommes fondantes by blanching them first. Gordon was horrified at their texture and color; Ben declared that Gordon's definition for pommes fondantes was just completely different from anything Ben had ever heard before. So who was right? Because we're talking classical French cooking now, and basically, there's only one way to do it. And that's the Escoffier way.

So even though pommes fondantes was in the top ten most Googled phrases this morning, I'm going to the actual expert, Auguste Escoffier. Who says to trim the potatoes into ovals, then cook them slowly in butter, turning frequently to give them good color. When they're soft, flatten them just a bit, breaking them open enough to absorb the fresh butter you then add to the pan. No blanching, Ben, thanks so much for playing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Louisa Takes Manhattan

I'm feeling very Miss Piggy today, swanning around NYC! I'm particularly glad to be here because it means I'm no longer on the plane. It takes quite a bit to rattle me while flying, but today Continental surpassed all expectations and managed to find every pocket of rough air between Cleveland-Hopkins and La Guardia. I white-knuckled the 90 minute flight and got off the plane feeling like a Bond martini.

Which got me thinking--that whole shaken, not stirred thing? Is totally 007 asking for a weak martini. Anyone who's ever used a cocktail shaker knows that the whole process of shaking liquor with ice cubes waters the drink down like nobody's business. A gin martini should be stirred to avoid "bruising" the gin, which I'll cop to not really getting. I'd never consent to a blind taste testing between bruised and unbruised gin. But between a shaken and a stirred martini? I bet I could pick it out blindfolded. So James, here's to you. If you were a real man, you'd reverse that famous line. And you wouldn't ask for vodka, either, which has no place in a real martini.

Yes, I'm feeling uppity today--I'm psyching myself up for my visit to Pegu Club tonight! Best cocktails in the city. Possibly in the world. Pretty, too. Below is a cocktail special from a previous visit. I think it was apple flavored, but I couldn't swear to it. : )

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